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Home < Computers< B&H Email Newsletter

B&H Printer and Scanner Buyer's Guide

By Jim Fisher

Printers

Buying a new printer can be a daunting task. With dozens and dozens of models to choose from, it may seem difficult to choose the one that best suits your specific needs. Printers run the gamut from the 'Swiss army knife'-style multifunction models, which seem to do everything short of your laundry, to dedicated photo models that can print large format images, to compact and portable photo printers that are designed solely to churn out 4x6" photos.

Before delving into options, we should define some terms that we often see in printer specifications. The first is the type of technology used to create prints. There are three major types on market today: Inkjet, Laser, and Dye Sublimation.

Inkjet printers, the most common type used in homes, propel variably-sized droplets of liquid ink onto paper or other media. They use individually-colored ink cartridges—generally cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—to create stunning color images. Specialized photo printers may use more than the four basic ink colors for even more detailed and rich output.

Laser printers, commonly found in office environments, are workhorses designed to meet the rigors of the business world. They use a laser beam to project an image onto an electrically-charged rotating drum. Rather than ink, laser printers use a toner cartridge for printing. This results in a very detailed print that can be produced very quickly, but isn't the best choice for printing photos. We won't be covering laser printers in this guide, but you may want to consider one if you are looking for a printer that is built to withstand the rigors of a busy office environment.

Dye Sublimation printers are a different beast entirely. They use heat to transfer a colored dye onto the print medium. They typically print an image in several passes—one each for cyan, magenta, and yellow—and a clear protective overcoat. Because each color is applied individually, they are capable of producing much higher quality photos. Consumer models are currently limited to (the rather small) 4x6" prints.

The next term to familiarize yourself with is “dpi"—or dots per inch. This is a measurement of the resolution the printer is capable of producing. Printers create different colors by placing individual dots of primaries next to each other. Dots per inch is a measurement of just that—how many dots are present per linear inch. As a rule, the higher this number is, the better your print will look—after all, when you print a picture you want your eyes to see a picture, not a group of dots.

Now, before we get on to the printers, just a quick note: All of these devices connect to a computer via USB 2.0. And they all work on Windows and Mac-based computer systems. If you have an older operating system—anything older than Windows XP or Mac OS X Panther—you should check the system requirements to ensure compatibility. But as a general rule of thumb, getting a printer up and running is easy for PC and Mac users alike.

Multi-Function Printers

The Epson WorkForce 610 is a color all-in-one printer that allows you to print, copy, scan, and fax. Built for speed, the printer is able to churn out draft-quality documents at 38ppm. High-quality prints, in line with those produced by laser printers, can print at 15ppm for monochrome and 9.3ppm for color. Its fax and copy functions can operate without the need for computer control. An integrated scanner can scan documents at 2400dpi resolution, and the printer is capable of printing at a resolution of 5760 x 1440dpi.

The WorkForce includes a 30-page Auto Document Feeder (ADF), which can be used to copy, scan, or fax multipage documents without manual user intervention. It uses Epson's DURABrite inks, which dry instantly and are resistant to smudges, fading, and water, while remaining highlighter-friendly. An integrated card reader and 2.5" LCD display allow you to print photos without first having to download them to a computer. Rounding out the impressive feature set is integrated network capability—both wired Ethernet and 802.11g Wi-Fi—allowing you to print from networked computers with ease.

The Epson Artisan 710 can handle printing, scanning, and copying. It can print at speeds up to 38ppm, and features an impressive maximum resolution of 5760 x 1440dpi. The printer uses six ink cartridges for high-quality photo printing. Adding some artistic features to the all-in-one design, the printer can print a borderless 4x6" photo in as little as 10 seconds, and is also capable of producing borderless 5x7" prints. It even prints directly onto inkjet-printable CD/DVD media.

A 2.5" LCD and memory card reader are present for easy photo printing—even without a computer. The Artisan features a 4800dpi scanner. It includes software that allows you to restore faded photos, making it a great choice for scanning older family photos. It features integrated Ethernet and Wi-Fi for network printing.

You may want to consider moving up to the Artisan 810. It adds fax capability—both black & white and color—to the impressive feature set of the Artisan 710. It also adds a 30-page Auto Document Feeder, an automatic duplexer for two-sided printing, and a touch-sensitive control panel with a large 3.5" LCD display.

The Canon PIXMA MX860 can print, scan, copy, and fax. It can print at speeds up to 8.4ppm and features Ethernet and Wi-Fi, 9600 x 2400dpi printing, and high-quality 48-bit scanning. An integrated memory card reader and 2.5" LCD screen allow you to print photos without first downloading them to your computer. The PIXMA uses five ink cartridges loaded with Canon ChromaLife 100 ink—which is rated to last for as long as 100 years before fading. Canon's Dual Color Gamut Processing Technology ensures that copies and scans don't lose quality, even if you are copying a copy. The printer includes an Auto Document Feeder, allowing you to work with multi-page documents with ease.

Canon's PIXMA MP560 is able to print, scan, and copy. It supports 9.2ppm printing, automatic two-sided printing, and boasts an impressive 9600 x 2400dpi print resolution. The integrated scanner can capture documents at 4800dpi. The memory card reader and 2" LCD display allow you to print photos directly from your camera's memory card. Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity are built in.

The PIXMA features Canon's Dual Color Gamut Processing Technology and uses five ink cartridges for superior print quality. It uses Canon ChromaLife 100+ ink, which can survive for up to 300 years when stored in archival-quality photo albums. Users looking to make larger prints will appreciate the printer's 8.5 x 11" borderless photo-printing function.

The PIXMA MP990 takes all of the features found in the MP560 and, as a TV chef might say, kicks it up a notch. It features a much larger 3.8" LCD for image preview and control, uses six individual ink cartridges for printing, and can churn out pages at 11.9ppm. The printer will automatically remove red-eye and optimize exposure when printing an image from a memory card—you can even fine-tune an image from the printer's LCD.

In addition to scanning standard documents, it is capable of scanning 35mm film. Anyone who has a library of family photos in the form of 35mm negatives or slides will appreciate this feature. You can make a much nicer scan from a 35mm frame than you can from an old print, making this all-in-one a good option for anyone who would like to bring old 35mm memories into the digital realm.

The Hewlett-Packard Photosmart C4680 can print, copy, and scan. It is capable of printing color documents at an impressive 23ppm, and supports print resolutions of up to 4800 x 1200dpi. An integrated memory card reader and 1.45" LCD allow you to print photos directly from your camera's memory card—the printer will even remove red-eye and correct other common photo snafus before printing. It can scan documents at 1200dpi with 48-bit color depth. Smart web printing allows you to clip content from web pages, so that you won't waste ink and paper printing parts of a web page that you're not interested in.

HP's Photosmart Premium TouchSmart Web C309n (say that 3 times fast) can print, copy, scan, and fax. It features a handy and aesthetically-impressive 4.3" touch screen control panel, which can be used to browse the web. Access coupons, recipes, puzzles, and the like via the printer's integrated web browser, and print them out with ease—without having to use a computer.

An integrated card reader allows you to print photos directly from your camera's memory card. Integrated 802.11n Wi-Fi and Ethernet make network printing a breeze. The printer even features an integrated Bluetooth module, allowing you to print documents directly from compatible devices—including the iPhone and iPod touch. Don't let all these bells and whistles detract from the fact that the printer features an impressive 9600 x 2400dpi print resolution, and can print color documents at an impressive 32ppm.

Office Printers

The HP Officejet 6000 is a color inkjet printer, designed for use in office environments. Built with energy efficiency and cost-per-page in mind, the Ethernet-enabled printer can print at 32ppm, and features operating costs that are up to 40% less than comparable laser printers. It features a 4800 x 1200dpi print resolution and a 250-sheet input tray. The included ink cartridges yield approximately 300 color and 420 black pages, and the printer's modest price point makes this an attractive option for SOHO use. Optional extended-life ink cartridges are available, helping the printer make even more economic sense.

An optional Wi-Fi upgrade module is available for the Officejet 6000. Users who know from the start that they'll need wireless printing, can opt for the Officejet 6000 Wireless Printer, which includes the module.

Users who often find themselves traveling may want to take a look at the HP Officejet H470b. This battery-powered printer works with Windows, Mac, Linux, and Palm OS devices. It is capable of print speeds of up to 22ppm and supports an impressive 4800 x 1200dpi resolution. It uses HP Vivera ink and can even produce 4 x 6" borderless prints. It is rated for a monthly duty cycle of 500 pages, and can print up to 4800 pages on a single charge. Optional Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modules are available.

The Officejet H470wbt is available for users who would like the printer to be compatible with Bluetooth devices without having to purchase an add-on module.

Photo Printers

The Epson Stylus Photo R1900 is designed to print photos at home with stunning quality. The 13" wide printer supports a variety of paper types, including roll paper, and special media types, including canvas. Capable of a maximum print size of 13 x 44", the printer can produce borderless prints at sizes up to 13 x 19".

It uses Epson UltraChrome Hi-Gloss 2 pigment inks, which are designed to produce vibrant skin tones. Radiance technology, co-developed by Epson and the Rochester Institute of Technology, maximizes the printer's color gamut and quality. The printer is even capable of printing directly onto inkjet-compatible CD and DVD discs.

The Canon PIXMA iP4700 Photo inkjet printer is capable of printing stunning 8.5 x 11" photos at up to 9600 x 2400dpi resolution. The printer can produce a borderless 4 x 6" print in about 20 seconds. It uses a 5-ink cartridge system with Canon ChromaLife 100+ inks, which can last up to 300 years when properly stored. The included Easy-PhotoPrint EX software includes the Auto Photo Fix II feature, which can automatically correct an image for optimal printing.

Canon's PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II printer is a 13" wide-format inkjet, capable of a maximum print size of 13 x 23". Compatible with all Canon Fine Art paper, the printer boasts a 4800 x 2400dpi resolution. The printer can apply ink in droplets as tiny as 2 picoliters for enhanced detail. It uses 8 ink cartridges, all with ChromaLife100 ink, to create stunning prints that can last up to 100 years.

The Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II, the Pro9000's big brother, is capable of printing up to 14" wide. It features dual paper trays, allowing you to keep two types of paper loaded at all times. It is capable of even more precise 3-picoliter printing, using the LUCIA pigment-based ink system with 10 individual cartridges. LUCIA features three dedicated grayscale cartridges for true black-and-white prints, and has a rated archival lifespan of 100 years. The Pro9500 can produce 4800 x 2400dpi prints up to 13 x 23" in size, and is also capable of wider 14 x 17" prints.

If small and portable is more your style, consider the Canon Selphy ES40. The compact dye sublimation printer is a master of one trade: printing 4 x 6" borderless photos. It doesn't require a computer to operate—just plug your digital camera or memory card into the printer and browse photos on its large 3.5" LCD. The non-technical among us will appreciate the voice guidance system, which gives spoken instructions for use. A slew of creative print effects are available, allowing you to apply artistic filters to photos prior to printing. This is all housed in a compact package with an extremely cute carrying handle.

Scanners

When you're choosing a scanner, there are two basic types to take into consideration. Flatbed scanners can digitize standard printed images via reflective scanning. Today, many of these often also include the ability to capture transparent media—such as negative and slide film—via integrated transparency adapters.

Dedicated film scanners do one thing, and they do it well—they scan film. Compatible with negative and slide film, these scanners cost a bit more than their flatbed cousins, but are capable of producing much-higher-quality scans.

All but one of the scanners listed here connect to a computer via USB 2.0, and are compatible with Windows and Mac operating systems.

Flatbed Scanners

Canon makes two USB 2.0 bus-powered scanners, perfect for portable use. The CanoScan LiDE 100 and CanoScan LiDE 200 differ mainly in resolution—2400dpi and 4800 dpi, respectively. Both scanners support documents up to 8.5 x 11.7" and have a Z-Lid expansion top for scanning thick books and magazines. Each scanner features four easy-access function buttons that allow you to automate the scanning process, scan directly to PDF, scan for e-mail, or to simply make a copy of a document. The LiDE 200 supports fast scanning, allowing it to digitize a document in as little as 14 seconds.

The CanoScan 8800F flatbed scanner is a dedicated desktop model. The 4800dpi scanner features an 8.5 x 11.7" bed and the ability to scan both 35mm and 120 roll film. Its transparency area can scan up to twelve 35mm negatives, four mounted 35mm slides, or a 6 x 22cm strip of 120 film at a time. A LED backlight eliminates the need for a warm-up time prior to scanning. It features the FARE Level 3 retouching system, which can automatically remove dust and scratches from negatives and slides.

HP's Scanjet G3110 is a compact flatbed scanner that is also capable of capturing 35mm film and three-dimensional objects. The 4800dpi scanner features an 8.5 x 11.7" bed, capable of holding three 4 x 6" photos; it can capture four mounted slides or five 35mm negatives at a time. One-touch controls allow you to scan, create a PDF, scan for e-mail, or copy documents with ease. The included software allows you to remove red-eye from photos, as well as make other commonly-needed corrections.

The HP Scanjet G4010 Photo flatbed scanner can scan documents up to 8.5 x 12.3" in size, as well as 35mm negatives and slides. Featuring a 4800dpi resolution at 96-bit color depth, the scanner includes software to help restore old photos. Included OCR software allows you to convert scanned documents into editable text.

The Epson V300 Photo flatbed scanner is capable of scanning documents up to 8.5 x 11.7" in size and 35mm slides and negatives. Featuring a 4800dpi resolution at 48-bit color depth, the scanner's 3.2 Dmax rating and LED backlight combine to produce extremely high-quality scans. The scanner's lid can open a full 180 degrees, perfect for digitizing pages from large books. A Digital Dust Correction system works with the scanner's Backlight Correction software to ensure that scanned negatives are free of dust and are properly exposed during capture.

Epson's V500 Photo scanner builds upon the extensive feature set of the V300. It adds a higher 6400dpi resolution, a 3.4 Dmax rating, and the ability to scan medium format film. It uses the Digital ICE system to removed dust from slides and negatives, without introducing unwanted artifacts. Photoshop Elements software is included for photo restoration and editing.

Epson's top-of-the-line flatbed, the V700 Photo, enhances the impressive feature set of the V500. It features an extremely large 8 x 10" transparency area, perfect for scanning large format negatives and slides. The dual lens system ensures optimal image capture. A variety of film holders are included—you'll be able to scan twenty-four 35mm negatives, twelve mounted 35mm slides, two to six frames of medium format film, two 4 x 5" negatives, or one 8 x 10" negative. Its 4.0 Dmax rating allows it to capture a wide gamut of exposure, great for working with film that has impressive dynamic range. Photoshop Elements software is included.

Dedicated Film Scanners

The Plustek OpticFilm 7500i SE and the OpticFilm 7500i AI vary only in bundled software. The scanner itself is capable of scanning 35mm slides and negatives at an impressive 7200dpi. It supports multi-sampling and multi-exposure to help eliminate unwanted image noise in scans. Capable of capturing 48-bit color depth, the scanner features Infrared Smart Removal of Defect (iSRD) technology to remove unwanted dust and scratches from scans.

Film holders are included for 35mm film strips (6 frames) and mounted slides (4 frames). The included carrying bag makes it easy to transport or store the scanner as needed. Both editions of the scanner include the Presto! ImageFolio 4.5 and PageManager 7.1 software.

The 7500i SE ships with the SilverFast SE scanning software suite. This professional application takes advantage of the advanced multi-sampling, multi-exposure, and iSRD functions of the scanner. The 7500i AI ships with the more advanced SilverFast AI software suite. Using the included color target, you'll be able to use SilverFast AI to create custom ICC profiles, ensuring that your scanner is properly calibrated for accurate color output.

Users who require superlative quality when scanning medium format slides and negatives need look no further than the Nikon Super Coolscan 9000 ED. This 4000dpi scanner features 48-bit color depth and a 16-bit A/D converter. It can capture 4.8 stops of dynamic range, and uses Digital ICE-4 Advanced technology to remove dust and scratches, restore color, reduce unwanted grain, and scan negatives with as much dynamic range as possible.

The precision Nikkor ED glass lens and LED light source further enhance the quality of scanned images. Unlike the other scanners in this round-up, this one uses a FireWire-400 interface for computer connectivity. Film holders for 35mm strips, mounted 35mm slides, and 120/220 film are included. Photographers working with medium format film who demand the best quality for at-home scanning needn't look further than the Coolscan 9000 ED.


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